Harbottle & Lewis is a first class law firm - the firm of choice for media and creative businesses, celebs and those in the public eye. It, and a relatively small number firms, has been quick to realise that PRs and lawyers need to work together when protecting valuable reputations.
That lawyers are increasingly involved in reputation management is not surprising. Not everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, and a strong letter from a law firm is going to carry more weight than a quiet word from a PR adviser.
It can also be argued that many of the traditional crisis PR strategies simply no longer work - take the collapse of Bell Pottinger, unable to manage its own crisis.
It is unlikely that lawyers are going to stray into the day to day brand building activity that the PR profession does so well.
But it is likely that PRs will play second fiddle to lawyers in managing a crisis - the beleaguered CEO or disgraced celeb is likely to feel greater comfort from the heavy hand of a lawyer than perhaps the softer voice of their PR.
Lawyers need, however, to listen to PR advisers, and take on board their advice. A legal notice might stall a story or halt broadcast, but with social media leaps and bounds ahead of the traditional media, it will rarely kill it.
PRs need to recognise that sometimes the legal approach really is the only way forward.
Together, PRs and lawyers both with experience in the field are a formidable team. But get one half of that mix wrong, well it will be the client that will lose out.
Forget the hackneyed image of lawyers rushing off to court to issue Stop Writs, or long libel trials. The landscape has changed, and legal support should be considered a key part of any PR and reputation protection strategy. The key to effective legal support is heading problems off before they arise – done on a pre-publication basis before the presses roll. It is a team effort with the PR and legal teams agreeing and implementing the best strategy. The PR teams who we work with bring us into cases when they consider it would be helpful to have legal back up. Often this is following a media enquiry, when the sixth sense kicks in, and the PR has a concern that a journalist is on the hunt and a damaging piece is in the offing.